League of Legends – What is it and How to Play?

League of Legends (LoL) is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) developed and published by Riot Games. The game follows a tri-lane 5v5 format which was pioneered by Kyle ‘Eul’ Sommer for Defence of the Ancients (DotA), a custom map for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. Riot Games was founded by Brandon ‘Ryze’ Beck and Marc ‘Tryndamere’ Merrill. Both their names are given to two individual playable Champions in the game. 

Riot games developed the business model League of Legends follows today. LoL is a full free to play game with microtransactions. The financial support comes from fans who pay for cosmetic items or instant Champion unlock. These include new costumes for Champions, colour changes, different wards, and user interface changes. Ryze and Tryndamere purposely avoid the pay-to-play and pay-to-win models to appeal to promote a purely competitive environment.

The two founders were Business Students and roommates studying at the University of Southern California at the time Riot Games was conceived. The initial idea was to create a game that consistently grows in time, inspired by player input and changing trends. The best model they knew was DotA, the game that retains the name but continues to grow, powered purely by fan input. The problem of that game was the lack of financial support from a real publisher. 

Ryze and Tryndamere created the idea for League of Legends. Contrary to its mod predecessor, DotA, LoL was always meant to be a stand-alone game. It will have full financial and technical support with its own engine. It will also have its own online matchmaking service as opposed to DotA having to rely on Battle.net from Blizzard.

Ryze and Tryndamere knew that they are both businessmen more than they are developers. In 2006, Riot Games hired its first employee, Steve ‘Guinsoo’ Feak. Guinsoo was the famed designer of the most successful DotA Allstars patch at the time. He brought the competitive element to life in the development of League of Legends. In 2008, Guinsoo introduced Steve ‘Pendragon’ Mescon to Riot Games. Pendragon was the community manager for DotA Allstars and now works for the same position under Riot Games. 

League of Legends first set off with mixed receptions from the gaming community at launch. One side is eager for its release. League of Legends was the most promising successor to the beloved mod embraced by millions around the world. The other side greeted Riot with disdain, mostly due to what the DotA community lost for the development of LoL. When Pendragon was hired by Riot Games, he took the community website with him and sold all its contents to Riot. The community lost all access to DotA-Allstars.com which was the central hub for all things DotA. 

Despite the pitchfork and torches, League of Legends grew large. The game is most successful in the Eastern market such as China and South Korea. By June of 2011, the first official World Championship was launched in Sweden.

Movement Mechanics

The game camera follows an isometric view of the battlefield and player character. This is inspired by the traditional format followed by real-time strategy (RTS) games that was prevalent in the Western Market. This kind of camera view allows the player to move the camera across the map. Most of the area is hidden in a feature called ‘fog of war’ which also exists in many RTS in the West. This restricts the players’ vision of areas they do not have an influence over such as an existing unit or ward. The limitations and extent of visibility can affect one’s strategy as the game plays out. 

Though you are blinded, moving the camera around is most helpful to check up on teammates from other lanes. LoL is a team game and a strategy game. Your cooperation and spatial awareness determine the difference between utter defeat and dominating success.

Basic Commands

To move your camera around, you may drag the cursor beyond the edge of your screen. Your view will follow which direction you sent the cursor to. You may also click on any part of the minimap found in the lower edge of the screen. Position may vary based on preference, but it is at the lower right by default. Your view will be instantly transferred to the area you clicked on. This feature is handy for quick glances. 

To quickly centre your view onto any of your teammates, you may tap on F2-F5. Each of these four keys is assigned automatically to each of your teammates based on their position in the scoreboard. You can see the scoreboard by holding or tapping the ‘Tab’ button. F2 starts from the top then F5 to the bottom. Despite your own position in the scoreboard, you will always be F1. 

As an alternative to F1, you may use ‘Space Bar’ instead. This centres your view onto your Champion instantly. Holding down ‘Space Bar’ will have the camera follow your Champion’s movements instead of having to drag the camera around. Use this feature when you are roaming alone. A follow-cam helps you view your Champion’s surroundings from all directions. Most attacks don’t stretch further than half the screen. The only Champions who do are from the artillery class but abilities such as theirs are difficult to aim. 

Champion Control

The mouse is all you need to move around the field. To move your Champion towards a specific direction, hover the cursor towards the soil and click the right mouse button. The Champion will walk (or float) towards that specific spot. Clicking on a wall or other obstacles will only make the Champion walk towards the wall, not on it. There are a few exceptions such as Champions with abilities to traverse obstacles like Talon and Kayn.

The left-click does nothing when used on the soil. Instead, you may left click on any unit to see their stats. If used on an enemy Champion, you may see their items. This way, you can gauge whether you can engage in combat or not. You may also think of a way to counter their build. 

Left-click also allows you to activate your Champion abilities. Click on one of the icons found in the bottom of your screen then click onto any direction relative to your Champion to cast it. This process takes too long for a game where anything can happen in a split second. Competitive players prefer setting their abilities in ‘quickcast’. The abilities activate as soon as you hit the hotkeys Q, W, E, or R. As for aiming, the ability instantly recognizes where the cursor is at the moment you tap a button. 

Besides Champion abilities, you also have summoner spells. Champion abilities are unique to each of the 146 playable characters in the game. Summoner spells are two of your own abilities that can be used regardless of which Champion you decide to play as. They can be cast and aimed similarly to Champion abilities. These summoner spells are set to keys D and F.

You will also have active items. Some items are consumables such as wards and potions. Hotkeys are set on numbers 1-3 and 5-7. Hotkey 4 is fixed on trinkets like warding totem and oracle lense. 

A special ability is available for all summoners and it can never be removed. This is called ‘recall’ and it is set in B by default. This ability channels a portal that will take your Champion back to your base. This allows all players to retreat no matter where they are on the map. The recall does not have cooldown nor does it consume mana. However, it takes 8 seconds to work. Getting hurt and moving cancels channelling progress. This is not advisable with enemies nearby. 

All hotkeys can be changed manually in the game systems options under key mapping. 

Champion Status

LoL follows the formula of traditional RPG with character stats to determine a character’s efficiency in combat. These stats may be altered by item builds and status effects for better or worse. While League of Legends is a game that favours player skills, Champion stats help give each Champion a sense of individuality. Keep an eye of the following details:

  • Health
  • Health Regeneration Rate
  • Armour
  • Magic Resistance
  • Attack Damage
  • Attack Range
  • Attack Speed
  • Movement Speed

What you keep in your inventory directly affects these elements in your Champion. Whichever you prioritize is determined by your role or which Champion you chose. Like in all RPGs, the worst idea you will ever have is keeping these stats balanced. Always min-max your resources. Focus on your strengths because your team needs you to be great at your job, not cover for others. 

Resource Bar

You may be looking for ‘Mana’ or whatever action limitations found in other RPGs. There is mana and it is, in fact, also called mana and it is found below the health bar. However, not all Champions possess or require mana. You may find some Champions having Fury, Flow, Energy, or Heat. The purpose of the mana was to exhaust players from irresponsible casting. However, League of Legends introduces game mechanics that would be severely underpowered if gated by mana exhaustion, therefore, cannot be limited in a traditional way. The gating mechanics in LoL are as follows:


The traditional blue bar under the health bar. This is the resource the player must manage to avoid being depleted in crucial moments. Mana is the only gating mechanic that benefits from Mana based items.


Some Champions have abilities that consume their own health to cast. Some of them do have mana, like Soraka, but they still have to pay the price for certain acts.


This is a metaphor for stamina. Similar to mana, energy depletes per abilities used. Lack of energy stops the Champion from performing anything else. Unlike mana, energy is maxed at 200 (400 for Shen) throughout the game with no means to increase capacity. What it lacks in maximum capacity it makes up for in rapid regeneration. Energy simply stops the Champion from performing devastating combos in a single dive. This forces the player to be more precise with their combos.
Energy is coloured yellow.


Names vary between Champions, but all three follow a principle. These generate by hurting enemies and depletes while out of combat. How they are used are unique to each Champion. Gnar transforms into a big monster once the gauge is full and he gains increased stats and stronger abilities. Renekton can use some of his fury to alter his abilities.
These are coloured red.


Heat is the reverse of Energy. The gauge fills up when using abilities but renders the Champion silenced until it cools down. This is unique to Rumble who rides a robot that uses flamethrowers.


  • The time duration for Aatrox’s World Ender form.
  • Shows the accumulation of Mordekaiser’s shield, Vladimir’s Bloodthirst, Yasuo’s Flow, and Sett’s grit.

Other Champions do not have a resource bar. This includes Zac, Dr. Mundo, Garen, Riven, and Katarina. Garen, Riven, and Katarina are soldiers who can spam their abilities. Your only limitations are cooldowns. It is possible for Dr. Mundo and Zac to be killed by their own abilities because they use health as a resource.

Items and Inventory Space

Next to your abilities in the HUD, you can see six empty square slots and a round slot. These are your items. Active items can be activated with keys 1-7. As mentioned before, number 4 is set for the trinket. The first three slots above are numbers 1, 2, and 3 respectively from left to right. The slots below are 5, 6, and 7 also from left to right. If you want to manage which keys are activated by which key, you have two options:

  1. Hold right-click on an item, move it to a slot you prefer, then let go of the button. 
  2. Alter the key mappings in the game system options.

Active items are not the only important stuff you can put in your inventory. In fact, LoL has more passive items. These items can either give passive effects that can heavily impact your game. All non-consumable items that you can buy increase your Champion’s stats. Some would even come with passives such as lifesteal and aura that reduces enemy defences. 

Your knowledge of each item’s benefits is just as important with your familiarity with every Champion’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing is half the battle. The other half is… battle. Every Champion has good and bad matchups against other Champions. These advantages can be enhanced or countered by good team synergy. However, you can counter your Champion’s weakness by a good item build. 


No two Champions can be the same. You may choose the same Champion and items as your enemy, but you will both have different stats. The secret lies in the Runes. These are hidden passives. The changes may seem small in terms of values relative to in-game items. The small changes these runes may provide actually introduce new features that have long term effects on your gameplay. Runes are important to the game as they can improve/hinder your play style. For example, if you are using a controller champion then it is best to pick runes that fit well with their skill set.

There are five rune ‘paths’, each geared towards different playstyles. Each ‘path’ contains 3-4 keystones and 9-10 shards. The keystones provide the biggest buff. Shards have smaller changes but effects can scale as you progress through the game. Some shards and keystones are completely unusable in some game maps or some Champions. One example is a mana increase for Champions that do not use mana. The five paths are as follows:

Rune Page

Runes are used in ‘pages’. There will be five pages available to you, one for each path. Each page can be used by all Champions in any given situation. You may not edit these given pages, instead, you have two slots where you can create your own customized page. 

To make a rune page, you must choose one main path and a secondary path. You may choose one keystone and three shards from the main path. The secondary path may only provide you with two shards. 

Map Format

Similar to DotA Allstars, League of Legends adapted the tri-lane format. The area is a square with two factions placed at the upper right and lower left corners. The faction bases are connected by one straight line at the center and two other lanes at the sides which meet at the lower right and upper left corner of the map. The hidden parts in between lanes are neutral grounds filled with jungle camps. 

Each faction produces equally powered ‘minions’ that march onwards to take objectives. The objectives being the destruction of the enemy bases, starting with the towers placed evenly across the map. 

Everything that can be killed or destroyed in the game provides gold and EXP. These are necessary for Champions to grow stronger as the game drags on. The key to victory is to grow faster than the enemy. This can be achieved by killing faster or stopping the enemy from killing. One method that can do both is by killing the enemy Champion. 

Roles for each Players in a Team

One match is divided into two teams. Each team requires five players, no more and no less. If a player disconnected from the game, the game continues but the team left behind will be missing a player for the rest of the game. If this happens, the players of the disadvantaged team may vote for a reset. Each of the five players are meant to fulfill a role. These roles determine their place on the map.